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"Come, Lord Jesus!"

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on September 23, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer, Guest Speaker
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Exodus 16

Fill our lives, oh Lord Jesus, with a constant sense of Your goodness. Even in the routines of daily life, draw our thoughts to the splendors of heaven, splendors which You have won for us through Your suffering and death, and splendors that are assured to us by Your glorious resurrection. Amen.

It's a soundbite time that we're living in. Give it to me in 30 seconds. Give it to me in 10 seconds. Give it to me quickly. Give it to me now. I've got things to do. Living in a soundbite time, we've come to expect soundbite spirituality. Give me God and give Him to me quickly. I'm always amused when I'm preaching a sermon and someone in the crowd looks at their watch. That glance doesn't necessarily mean that the sermon is long. It does mean that we are living in a hurry.

Now, soundbites aren't all bad. If you can't say it succinctly, you may not know what you're talking about, but soundbite spirituality, not the best. Consider some real-life situations. You are diagnosed with cancer. Some well-meaning person gives you soundbite spirituality and says, "Praise the Lord, anyway!" You are young, and your spouse dies. Someone says, "When God closes a door, He opens a window." Churches are great for putting soundbite spirituality on their sign boards. Now, those snippets are not wrong. Religious soundbites aren't wrong. They just don't go too far in satisfying our deep, real-life spiritual needs.

I'll give you a spiritual soundbite today, if you want to call it that. It will not solve your deep spiritual needs like some kind of abracadabra incantation, but the little sentence that I'll share with you is an invitation to deeper spirituality. Here's something I can promise you. If you regularly use this spiritual soundbite as an invitation to deeper spirituality, that deeper spirituality will sustain you, day in and day out, in good times and in bad. Here it is. "Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest, and let Thy gifts to us be blessed. Amen."

Maybe you know that as a table prayer. Please note: there are other prayers that can be said before eating. Don't take the notion that I'm saying this is the prayer that has to be said before you eat, and any other prayer is inferior. Please note something else: it should not be prayed mechanically and without thought. It should engage your mind, even if it is only for a few seconds. Having said those two things, my point is this: for your own spiritual well-being, do yourself a favor. Develop and treasure the habit of praying before meals. Before you take a bite, consider using this spiritual soundbite, "Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest, and let Thy gifts to us be blessed. Amen."

Who doesn't pray before meals? Well, animals don't, for an animal, eating is simply a physical necessity, nothing more. But, for people, eating should have a definite spiritual aspect. Deuteronomy 8:3 says, "A person cannot live on bread alone, but on every Word that the Lord speaks." The spiritual aspect of eating is an easy thing to forget, and we do forget it. We all do. We forget it because we eat so often and in this soundbite era, we often eat on the run.

The first spiritual truth about eating is that we are dependent upon God for daily bread. Like a baby bird with its beak open, waiting to be fed, you and I are ultimately dependent upon God for the food we eat. Psalm 145 says, "The eyes of all wait upon Thee and I'll givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest Thine hand and satisfyest the desire of every living thing." That God provides us sinners with food is a testimony to His goodness. That's spiritual truth number two.

This month I am talking about clouds in the Bible. Today's cloud passage is, on the one hand, a well-known story. But on the other hand, you probably did not realize that it involved a cloud. Listen to a portion of Exodus 16. "The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt." That time in Exodus 16:1 is important. It's only been about 45 days since God miraculously took the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt and rescued them from Pharaoh's army. That great deliverance had just happened.

Reading on. "In the desert, the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, 'If only we had died by the Lord's hand in Egypt, there we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.'" Well, you know that God heard their grumbling. God hears everything, so God told Moses privately, "I'm going to give them manna." Every morning when the Israelites woke up, they found thin flakes on the ground. These thin flakes were edible. There was always enough for everyone to eat. The flakes were called "manna."

Now, that's what God did in response to their grumbling-a good and really undeserved kindness. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's not miss the drama. At this stage of the story, God told only Moses-only Moses-what was going to happen. Picking up the story at verse 9, "Then Moses told Aaron, 'Say to the entire Israelite community, 'Come before the Lord, for He has heard your grumbling.' While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud."

Now, I don't know about you, but I would have been scared to death by the sight of that cloud. It was not just a weather cloud. It was the God cloud. It was the cloud that had been leading them since they escaped at the Red Sea. They didn't need any preacher to say, "My dear brothers and sisters, that is the divine cloud." Nope, they knew what it was, and they should've been quaking in their boots, or actually sandals, because they had been complaining. Their complaints were not really against Moses and Aaron. Their complaints were ultimately against God. Remember that the next time you grumble about meatloaf or pork and beans or bread and gravy or whatever.

Philippians 2:14 says, "Do everything without complaining." They were complaining. They were sinning against the God who had just rescued them from terrible slavery in Egypt. If I had been there, I would have fully expected that God cloud to strike me dead. I would have been shivering in my sandals, but listen to verse 11: "The Lord said to Moses, 'I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them at twilight you will eat meat and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord, your God.'" Is that good or what? He does not deal with us as we deserve, but He deals with us out of the great storehouse of His goodness.

In Acts 14, St. Paul says, "God has not left Himself without testimony. He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons. He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." Martin Luther wrote, "God gives daily bread indeed without our prayer. Also, to all the wicked, but we pray that He would lead us to know it and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving." That's why God's people pray before meals. As I said, there is no prescribed table prayer that must be used. "Come, Lord Jesus" is one common prayer.

But, what does it mean, "Come, Lord Jesus"? He's already there. Jesus Christ is not only true Man, He is also true God. God is every place, so Jesus is already there. Whether it's in your kitchen or in McDonald's, He is already there. So why, then, invite Him to come? Of course, it acknowledges that God, out of His goodness, has given us that food. Many prayers do that and do it well. This little prayer not only specifies that the Father gives food. It specifies the Lord Jesus gives us food. That's biblical.

Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus sustains all things by His powerful Word. To be blessed brings up a third spiritual truth about eating. Eating is not simply fueling our body. We eat for strength so that we might glorify God. St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31, "Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God," but I've saved the best part to last. When you regularly and thoughtfully use this prayer, this spiritual soundbite, if you will, you are being drawn into a deeper spirituality. Unless you willfully resist, that deeper spirituality will sustain you day in and day out, in good times and in bad.

"Come, Lord Jesus," suggests the eating and drinking that happens in worship when you receive the Lord's supper in Holy Communion. The Lord's Supper was Jesus' final will and testament before He died. The Bible says that on the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread and blessed it. He broke the bread, gave it to His disciples, and said, "Take this and eat it. This is My body." Then He took a cup and spoke a prayer of thanksgiving. He gave it to them and said, "Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood, the blood of the testament. It is poured out for many people so that sins are forgiven."

At home or in restaurants, we eat to get strength for our bodies and, hopefully, as I said, to glorify God. When we come to the Lord's Supper, we come for the forgiveness of sins. Do you remember when the divine cloud came to the Israelites? Those grumbling sinners should have been terrified by the approach of the holy and righteous God, and maybe they were. The way to approach the Lord's Supper is with a sense of your sinfulness and your absolute, I stress absolute, not partial, your absolute dependence upon God for His gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ earned forgiveness, and God gives it to repentant sinners through the Gospel. That Gospel, that Good News of forgiveness through Jesus, along with the eating and drinking of His body and blood, makes the Lord's Supper a feast for the sincere believer-a feast of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

"Come, Lord Jesus." There's one more great dimension to this little prayer. It whets our appetite for heaven. At the very, very end of the Bible, we find this verse, Revelation 22:20. "He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.' Amen, come, Lord Jesus." Heaven will be so great. We cannot begin to imagine what it will be like; however, one way the Bible pictures it for us is as a feast. Jesus says in Matthew 8: "I say to you that many will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." What a feast that will be!

Isaiah 25 is a prophetic look toward heaven. On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will prepare for all people a feast with the best foods. A banquet with aged wines with the best foods and the finest wines. On this mountain, He will remove the veil of grief covering all people and the mask covering all nations. He will swallow up death forever. The almighty Lord will wipe away tears from every face. In Revelation, the believers in heaven are described this way. These are the people who are coming out of the terrible suffering. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are in front of the throne of God. They serve Him day and night in His temple. The One who sits on the throne will spread His tent over them. They will never be hungry or thirsty again.

Animals don't pray before they eat, but I hope you will. We live in a soundbite age. Can't change that. Soundbite spirituality is not deep enough for our real-life needs. We can change that. "Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let thy gifts to us be blessed." That little prayer is your reminder of the foretaste of the feast to come. Amen.

Reflections for September 23, 2018

Title: Come, Lord Jesus! By Tony Cook

Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour, and that was Dr. Dale Meyer with a message that first aired in August of 1998. Dr. Tony Cook joins me now. Twitter didn't actually get started until 2006, but I think Dr. Meyer is already sort of predicting that, when he talks about the sound bites, the idea of these little short phrases that become so key, kind of, I guess, a precursor to the tweets that we are all are so familiar with today.

Tony Cook: That's right. I think when you look at media in general, and you look at television and radio, that sound bites are kind of a very catchy way of communicating a compact statement. And in some ways those soundbites are good because they can communicate very clearly and quickly, but in other ways, when you hear them too much, they might actually lose the richness of the meaning that they are designed to convey.

Mark Eischer: Now he's offering a soundbite which is actually a prayer, I had never thought of it that way before.

Tony Cook: Yeah, this is a prayer that many people know. I grew up being taught this prayer, I assume you have as well, it's the Common Table prayer that many of us say, the "Come, Lord Jesus" prayer, as I called it when I was a little kid.

"Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let ..."

Mark Eischer: "These" or "Thy"?

Tony Cook: "These" or "Thy"? We'll see where we fall on this. "Thy gifts to us be blessed, Amen."

It's funny because even in that little soundbite, there's that controversy of when you say, "Come, Lord Jesus be our guest, and let ..." Is it "these" or "Thy"? Are you talking about the gifts that are before or do you say, "Thy," recognizing that those gifts come from God?

Even in that little simple quote, that little simple snippet, the meaning there is debated on how it should be said.

Mark Eischer: Right, whenever you're in a mixed group of Lutherans, there are some that are going to be praying, "These gifts," and some that say, "Thy gifts," and there's a little bit of a glitch, a little bit of an anomaly there.

Tony Cook: There's a hiccup, yeah, when we say it together and then you get the ones who try to bring all the families together and they say, "These, Thy gifts."

Mark Eischer: Okay.

Tony Cook: So, it's something that we know, and it's something that, regardless of if we say, "these," or "Thy," we've said, many of us have said it, many, many times, but I think what Dr. Meyer is telling us in this message is that there might be something deeper in that short phrase that we're missing.

Mark Eischer: Let's unpack that just a little bit how this prayer serves again as an introduction or an invitation to a deeper spirituality and to see the spiritual dimension at work in everyday life.

Tony Cook: I think one of the first things that sticks out to me is really the good gifts part, you know, regardless of "these" or "Thy," it is talking about the good things come from God.

You think about God providing us with the food that we need, you think about the good gifts, the food that God provided for His people like they said in Israel, so the manna that was there, that food that they ate, and then also Dr. Meyer talks about that spiritual food that's there that we receive in the Lord's Supper.

And so, the idea that regardless of what we're getting that's good, that all of these things have their origin in God, and that God works through His creation; He works through His people, and He's saying, "Hey, I know you need these things, and here they are, right here on your table, in your worship, in your life. I'm providing you with those things that you requested and those things that you need both for body and for soul."

Mark Eischer: There's a lot to see and hear in this prayer. We've talked about the gifts, what about the very first words, "Come, Lord Jesus"?

Tony Cook: To me this is, I get chills, oddly enough, when we talk about that part of the prayer. "Come, Lord Jesus"-it's such an easy thing to say, but the meaning behind it is so deep and, in many ways, startling, to me.

So, at first when you say, "Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest" you're thinking you're inviting Him to be present at your table, that you're sitting there with your family and that that might be a blessing for you. So, you're saying, "Hey! We're leaving a chair for You, come on, sit down."

That seems pretty common, inviting someone to our house to visit you, is one thing. But when you think about it in its deeper sense, you think about it as an invocation, if you will, not only in your prayer at your table, but in worship, that God is present there and for Jesus, connecting it to the table in the bread and the wine. But the one that gets me is thinking about Jesus answering that prayer by coming again.

Mark Eischer: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Tony Cook: And sometimes you wonder, "Do I want to actually pray that prayer?"

So, "Come, Lord Jesus," and He might say, "Hey, well, you wanted Me to be there with you at your table and the worship, but you know what-it's time. I'm coming back for the final time."

And so to me, it focuses not only on what we're doing right there at our family table or at our Christian table of the Lord's Supper, but it always flashes in my mind these images of Jesus' return-where He will come again, and the dead will be raised, and He will judge those according to those who believe in Him and trust in Him and then, finally, there will be that entry into the full manifestation of the kingdom. And this is the crazy part is that when we enter finally into that kingdom of God, there's yet another table. There is the table of the wedding feast, and there we will sit at the table forever.

And so, it's interesting, we invoke Jesus to be present at our table in our home. We then visit with Him as He is present at His table in the Lord's Supper and, ultimately, we are called to His final table: that table in heaven where we will be with Him forever.

So, it's a small, small soundbite but it has heavy, heavy meaning.

Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"Feed Your Children, God Most Holy" From And My Mouth Will Declare Your Praise by the Children's Choirs of St. Paul's Lutheran Church (© 1997 St. Paul's Lutheran Church)

"Lord of Glory, You Have Bought Us" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

Change Their World. Change Yours. This changes everything.

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